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Jane Holmshaw

Mental Health Occupational Therapist / Older Adult Community Mental Health Service

Life can change in minutes as can our mental health.

I am a member of the hidden front line, mental health workers, invisible in the media’s glory stories. Redeployed to the Mental Health Home Treatment Team, a joining of adult resources to support the clients, carers and families in crisis. We rallied together with our colleagues across the third sector to protect the often forgotten members of our community.

In the 48 hours before lockdown, I knew it was coming but nothing prepared me for the speed with which things would change. We were given 24 hours’ notice to clear our lockers at work and to move half of our resources into storage. I left work on the Friday night with a full car and I set myself up for working from home and home-schooling

I was informed by email that I had been redeployed and my daughter had been allocated an essential school place to start the following morning. I remember the phone call from the school head being full of questions, as I was asked about what cover I would need, would it extend to the Easter holidays and if so what hours would I require. I made a lot of decisions on the spot not really sure of any of the answers. The school was fantastic, the staff did everything they could to support the children and their families. I really valued this and the knowledge that my daughter was with people she trusted and

felt safe with. I was also truly grateful that even in the face of the unknown, my daughter and I remained in our daily roles and routine, which as a mental health occupational therapist, I am acutely aware is key to our wellbeing.

Our clients were facing ever increasing challenges to their mental health. Many unable to understand why the world as they knew it, was now unrecognisable. For this reason and many more layers of complexity we knew our roles were more critical than ever. Each day we supported each other as best we could, knowing that we were entering into the homes of the most vulnerable, not knowing what we might face. Not knowing if the PPE was effective, if we were putting our clients or ourselves at risk.

As a single parent, I carried these anxieties on a daily basis to the point I even considered sending my daughter to my family in the UK to shield her from the high risks my role carried. In the end I made preparations within our home, with aim that she would feel safe and confident if I became ill. My daughter definitely lived up to her name in lock down, it means “strong and mighty in battle” I am so proud of my warrior.